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Custer Custom Leather

All products made in Kentucky, USA

Terminology, simplified.

Are you tired of being confused by conflicting leather 'crafters' uses of terms? Trying to decide between companies, products etc.? Custer Custom Leather to the rescue! Most terms are self-defining, nevertheless, we're about to set the record straight. Reference these terms and guidelines not only for our products, but other folk's offerings as well. 

"Genuine Leather"

Let's start with what's likely the biggest, most mis-leading term in modern leather-goods history:    

"Genuine Leather" 

This phrase has almost entirely been hijacked by Chinese manufacturers. In nearly all cases it is NOT real leather. Ironic, considering that "real" is literally the definition of 'genuine'. Typically speaking, "genuine leather" will be a material consisting of: 

1.) leather particles or shavings glued together and sanded and/or coated to imitate leather on the surface. 

2.) Faux leather (Similar in structure to Vinyl)

3.) Split leather 

When the phrase "genuine leather" is applied to this last example, it is *technically* the most honest of the three. 'Split' leather is referring to the layer that's removed when a hide is thinned to a 'lighter' weight. You almost always want to avoid this leather, as it is significantly weaker than the first layer. Read on to learn why.

"Top Grain Leather"

The term "Top Grain Leather" is pretty straight-forward. Yet, it is applied to a number of different products incorrectly. To define it, we must first discuss the structural nature of leather. Firstly, leather is a fibrous material. If you were to examine a leather hide (from any animal) on edge under a microscope, you would see a massive number of small 'strands' or fibers. The way God designed animal hides, the fiber structure is the tightest -and thus strongest- at the surface, or 'smooth side' of the hide. As you progress deeper into the animal's hide, the fiber structure loosens somewhat. This is why the back (or 'flesh' side) of the hide is rougher and fuzzy feeling. Another consideration is that different animals have varying levels of tightness to their hide's grain make up. Cowhide is most commonly used, due to the availability, durability and thoroughly proven track record of its hide.

"Full Grain Leather"

If you look at leather goods sites you will frequently encounter repeated improper uses of the line "Full Grain Leather." I am always personally shocked how such a simple term isn't understood by fellow craftsmen. The term means that the hide is its original thickness; in other words, it hasn't been thinned since it was on the animal. Obviously, cows are large animals, with Angus breed animals weighing in at an average of 1,200 pounds when processed. (The majority of cowhides in North America come from the meat industry, which prefers the Angus.) As you can imagine, natural weight (thickness) cowhide is pretty heavy. A hide on the thinner side will be 10/11 oz. (approximately 5/32" to 11/64"), which is quite thick. On the heavier side, you could see a hide as thick as 16 oz. or a bit over (approximately 1/4"). As you can imagine, you wouldn't want to make a wallet (for example) from something that massive. So, you use a process called "splitting". This step is used to reduce the thickness of the leather to an ideal weight for a given application. However, the hide is no longer its original thickness; thus, it isn't truly "full grain". It may indeed be "top grain", but it is not "full grain".